Penal Code 632 TC - California "espionage" laws. (2023)

Penal Code 632 TC - California "espionage" laws. (1)

Penal Code 632 PCdefine your crimeto listenhow to use an electronic amplification or recording device toListenfor someone elseconfidential communication. The crime can be prosecuted ascrimethe onecrime, and carries a maximum penalty of up to3 yearsin prision.

Note that California is abilateral consent status. This means that all parties to a phone call or conversation must give theirconsent beforeCan someone record this?

PC 632states that "a person who, intentionally and without the consent of all parties to a confidential communication, uses an electronic amplifier or recording device to eavesdrop on or record the confidential communication, whether the communication takes place between the parties in the presence of another or by telegraphic means, telephone or other device, except a radio, shall be punished with a fine not to exceed two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500) for the offense or imprisonment for not more than one year in county jail or state prison, or both fine and prison".


  • record a boss's conversations with other employees.
  • recording a hotel guest's conversation while staying in the next room.
  • using a laptop in an intimate restaurant to record the conversation between two diners.


You can fight a spy charge with alegal defense. Some common defenses are:

  • Unintentional,
  • consent and/or
  • no electronic devices.


Violation of this section of the code is aprecarious. This means you can be billed as follows:

  • crime, O
  • crime.

espionage misdemeanorpunishable by imprisonment incounty jailUp to a year.

criminal espionagepunishable by imprisonment in state prison for up to three years.

UsCalifornia Criminal Defense Lawyerswe will discuss the following in this article:

  • 1. When is wiretapping a crime in California?
  • 2. Are there defenses to Penal Code 632 charges?
    • 2.1. Unintentional
    • 2.2. Consent
    • 23. no electronic device
  • 3. What are the penalties for wiretapping?
  • 4. Are the recordings admissible as evidence in court?
  • 5. What are the rules for surveillance and video cameras?
  • 6. Are there civil remedies for listing "victims"?
  • 7. Are there related crimes?
    • 7.1. Interception - PC 631
    • 7.2. Peeking Wanderer – PC 647i
    • 7.3. Criminal invasion of privacy – PC 647j

Penal Code 632 TC - California "espionage" laws. (2)

Penal Code 632 PC is the California law that defines the crime of espionage.

1. When is wiretapping a crime in California?

Penal Code 632 PCit is California law that criminalizes espionage.1

A prosecutor must prove the following to convict you of this crime:

  1. youintentionalI overheard or recorded another person's personal or telephone conversation,
  2. you did it using aElectronic device,
  3. the debate would be consideredconfidential, you
  4. you did not haveconsentall parts of the conversation to listen or record it.2

E "Electronic device” includes things like:

  • microphones,
  • telegraphs,
  • phones and
  • laptops.

A conversation is considered "confidential" e:

  • Anypart of this conversation has a,
  • objectively reasonable expectationthat the conversation is not being heard or recorded.3

Observe thatjudge or jurywill determine whether a conversation was confidential by looking at all the facts of a case.

Example:A conversation between two colleagues is likely to be confidential if it takes place in one of the employee's locked offices.

However, that same conversation is probably not confidential if it's taking place in the break room at work during a busy lunch.

Please note that conversations may be recorded.without consentNever:

  • occur in public places or government procedures and
  • participants expect to be heard or recorded.

2. Are there defenses to Penal Code 632 charges?

you can take onelegal defenseto contest the espionage charge.

Three common defenses are that there were:

  1. with no intention of listening,
  2. consent and/or
  3. no electronic devices.

2.1. Unintentional

You are only guilty under this law ifintended for espionage. That means it's a legal defense if you didn't act intentionally. Perhaps, for example, you accidentally overheard a private conversation.

2.2. Consent

California is a two-party consent state. This means that it is a defense to show that:

  • bothparts of a conversation
  • they gave theirsconsentrecord it or listen to it.

Note that the defenseIs not workingif only one of the parties consents.

23. no electronic device

You are only guilty if you listen using aElectronic device. Therefore, it is always a defense to show that:

  • though you may have overheard a private conversation,
  • you have not used any of these devices.

Penal Code 632 TC - California "espionage" laws. (3)

Violation of this law may result in a fine and/or imprisonment.

3. What are the penalties for wiretapping?

A 632 PC hack is a wobbler. This means that a prosecutor can charge you withAnymisdemeanor or felony, depending on:

  • the facts of the case, and
  • your criminal history;

espionage misdemeanorpunishable by:

  • confinement in the county jail for up to one year and/or
  • maximum fine of $2,500;4

criminal espionagepunishable by:

  • imprisonment in state prison for up to three years and/or
  • maximum fine of $2,500;5

If you are convicted of this crime, youThey have the righton ato switch offas much as:

  1. successfully complete the probationary period or
  2. Complete a prison sentence (whichever is relevant).

LowPenal Code 1203.4, a delete clears you of everything:

  • sanctions and
  • deficiency

derived from the phrase.6

4. Are the recordings admissible as evidence in court?

Recordings are admissible in court if made bypolice. They are also acceptable, in some cases, when taken toprivate.

TC 632 Espionage Lawsnot applicable:

  • to law enforcement officials,
  • while working in their official capacity.7

This means that:

  1. the police canRecordprivate conversations and
  2. these records can beadmitted in court as evidence.

You can also legally record a confidential communication if:

  1. You are one of themconversation parts, you
  2. You are recording the conversation for collectionevidencethat the other party committed:
  • for. blackmail, downPenal Code 518 PC,
  • yes. abduction, downPenal Code 207 CC,
  • C. bribe, lowPenal Code 67 CC,
  • Hey. annoying phone calls, lowPK 653m PK, O
  • my. any serious crime involving violence against another person (e.g., murder, submissionPenal Code 187 CC).8

If all these conditions are met, then:

  • he canlegally registerthe conversation and
  • record can bewere admitted as evidence.9

5. What are the rules for surveillance and video cameras?

There are no laws against you:

  • using video surveillance cameras,
  • around your property,
  • for the purpose ofsecurity.

But these cameras cannot record something that a person hasreasonable expectation of privacyinside. Neither can theyto break intoa person's private life.

The United States"Law of video voyeurism"is at stake here too. The law says it is a federal crime knowingly and intentionally:

  • capture an image of aa person's private space,
  • without that personconsent,
  • in cases where that person has “reasonable expectation of privacy10

The latter means that:

  • a reasonable person would believe that,
  • Her private parts would not be visible or photographed by the public.11

6. Are there civil remedies for listing "victims"?

ComPenal Code 637.2personal computer, there are civil remedies to register "victims". a plaintiffYou can bringcivil action for damages against someone who spied on them.12

If the "victim" claims to have sufferedfinancial lossesAs a result of wiretapping, they can sue for:

  • up to three times the amount of damage suffered, or
  • $5,000, whichever is greater.13

If the plaintiff has not suffered financial loss, he can still sue for up to $5,000.14

7. Are there related crimes?

There are three crimes related to wiretapping. These are:

  1. interceptions – PC 631
  2. spy while roaming – PC 647i, and
  3. criminal invasion of privacy – PC 647j.

7.1. Interception - PC 631

ComPenal Code 631 PC, it's a crime:

  1. "ring" directly on another person's phone line and
  2. listen to all conversations taking place on this line.

Remember that spying is done through the use of an electronic device that does not involve tapping a telephone line.

7.2. Peeking Wanderer – PC 647i

Penal Code 647i Postal Codeconsider crime:

  1. peek into a residential building and
  2. to do so while wandering on private property.

This law involves looking at another person and not listening to their words.

7.3. Criminal invasion of privacy – PC 647j

Criminal Code 647imakes it an offense to violate someone's privacy by:

  1. use of a device to invade a person's privacy;
  2. secretly photographing a person's body for the purpose of sexual gratification or
  3. hidden photo of someone to see that person's body or underwear.

Again, this law includes monitoring another person rather than listening to their conversations.

For more help...

For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We serve clients across the state, including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and more.

For similar categories in Nevada, see our article on "NRS 200,650 - Invasion of Privacy by Espionage of Nevada Law

For similar claims in Colorado, see our article on “Colorado wiretapping and espionage laws

Legal references:

  1. California Penal Code 632 TC. See also thatCalifornia Invasion of Privacy Act.
  2. No. CACI 1809 – Registration of Confidential Information. Civil Jury Instructions of the Judicial Board of California (2017 edition).
  3. See the same. See tooFlanagan contra Flanagan (2002) 27 Cal.4th766; sim,Deeter contra Angus (1986) 179 Cal.App.3d 241.
  4. California Penal Code 632 TC.
  5. See the same. See tooPenal Code 1170f.
  6. California Penal Code 1203.4 TC.
  7. California Penal Code 633 TC.
  8. california penal codeArticle 633.5 of the Civil Code.
  9. See the same.
  10. 18 USC 1801a.
  11. 18 USC 1801b5.
  12. California Penal Code 637.2 TC. See tooWarden v. Kahn (1979) 99 Cal.App.3d. 805.
  13. See the same.
  14. See the same.
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